- Special Projects
Oahu voters overwhelmingly think climate change is a serious problem and they are willing to personally do something about it, according to a new poll by ALG Research.
The survey of 503 likely voters this summer found 50% think climate change is a “very serious” problem and another 32% consider it “somewhat serious.” Of those surveyed, 78% said they would be likely to change their habits, such as driving less or installing solar.
The Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, led by Josh Stanbro, shared the study with Civil Beat this week. He said he wanted the study in part to establish a baseline of how voters feel about climate change and what aspects worry them most.
He said the poll was commissioned by the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council’s political arm, the NRDC Action Fund, as part of the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. Stanbro’s office, which receives funding from Bloomberg, provided input on language and questions to ask.
Voters created the office in 2016 to tackle these issues. It spent much of the first couple years creating Oahu’s first resilience strategy, a 44-point plan that was released in May.
Stanbro said he felt confident that island residents in a predominantly Democratic state would have a fairly high level of concern about the effects of a warming planet. But some of the results still surprised him.
For starters, he said, it was interesting to learn that climate change was almost as important to voters as perennial issues.
Homelessness, cost of living, affordable housing and traffic still dominate; more than 90% of those polled think these are serious problems. But climate change wasn’t far behind at 82%.
And he said it was fascinating to see that effects of climate change like coral bleaching and sea level rise were considered more serious problems than the projections of increasingly severe weather like hurricanes and flooding.
Lisa Grove, a national pollster based in Hawaii who conducted this survey, said the responses told her that Oahu residents are quite aware of climate change and that the effects are being felt now — not in some distant future.
“We’re starting light years ahead of where other voters are,” she said.
Stanbro attributes that in part to being an island state, where the effects of climate change are often more apparent, and that he doesn’t think Oahu is a very transient place. So for a lot of residents, they can see the changes over time.
“We’re a bit more progressive too,” he said.
The poll found that three-fourths of those surveyed would be likely to do more than they are doing now to address climate change on Oahu. But they have preferences on what they’d be willing to do.
Half of those polled said they would be likely to change their car to a hybrid or electric vehicle whereas two-thirds said they’d be likely to install solar hot water or a photovoltaic system on their roof.
Only 42% said they would likely pay more taxes and fees that would be directly invested into solutions for climate change. And just 39% said they would ride a bike instead of driving sometimes.
More people were inclined to switch to the bus instead of driving. The poll found 54% would be either very likely or somewhat likely to do so.
When it comes to how the city uses their tax dollars, 81% said they favor updating building codes to require new homes to be more energy efficient, use solar water heaters and be able to charge electric vehicles.
That figure stayed high at 74% when asked if they still supported doing so even if it meant added upfront costs to home builders while lowering utility bills to the homeowner in the long run.
The Oahu voters who were surveyed have broad support for dedicating a lane on key roads to public transit to allow buses to move faster during rush hour. The 73% in favor fell to 58% in favor if that meant some parking spaces have to be removed or cars cannot drive in the bus lane.
It was a similar level of support — and a similar drop — when asked about installing more safe bike lanes throughout the island. It started at 68% in favor but fell to 53% if it meant losing parking spots.
One progressive measure that Oahu voters are not ready to do is charge a small fee for private autos to enter certain congested neighborhoods like Waikiki as a way of easing gridlock. Only 12% were strongly in favor and 20% were somewhat in favor.
Grove, the pollster, said Oahu is not like some other places on the mainland that say climate change is India’s fault or too big a problem to solve.
“They were basically like, ‘tell me what to do, I’m ready to go,’” she said of the Oahu residents she surveyed.
The poll, conducted June 17-23, had a 3.7% margin of error. It was 30% cell phones and 70% land lines.
See more poll results below.
Studies have shown that when local journalism disappears, government financing costs go up, fewer people run for public office, elected officials become less responsive to their constituents, and voter turnout decreases. Our small nonprofit newsroom works hard every day to present local news in a deep and transparent way, without fear or favor. We also rely on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. The more support we receive; the stronger, more sustainable our journalism becomes; the more accountable we are to you. Please consider supporting our Honolulu Civil Beat with a tax-deductible gift.